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Sitemap Sep-Archive-05 Google, Geico Settle Trademark Case

Google, Geico Settle Trademark Case  

Google Inc. has resolved a trademark infringement case filed by Geico over Google's online advertising practices, the auto insurer said.

Geico, the fourth-largest U.S. auto insurer and a unit of investor Warren E. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said its lawsuit filed against Mountain View, Calif.-based Google in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.

In a ruling late last year, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected Geico's request to block Google from letting rival insurance companies to pay for the right to have their ads displayed after Geico's name is included in a search request.

But in a written ruling last month Brinkema left the door open for Geico to collect damages from Google for featuring ads from rivals that used Geico's name in the heading above the Web links, as well as the subtext.

Brinkema gave Google and Geico 30 days to settle that part of the dispute or face a trial on the issue. The deadline for reaching a settlement was to expire shortly. The Geico suit is just one of several trademark battles shadowing Google's method for selling the text-based ads that provide the financial fuel for the company's popular search engine.

Google sells the right to have ads linked to specific search terms. Advertisers usually bid on general terms, such as ``hotel'' or ``DVD,'' but Google also auctions off company trademarks, such as Geico. That practice has infuriated many trademark holders because it gives rivals a chance to lure away prospective customers.

Google changed its trademark policy last April. Previously, a trademark owner could request Google remove the trademarked terms from its AdWords system. Under the new policy, Google only disallows the use of trademarked terms in the ad listings itself, but advertisers are permitted to bid on keywords that are trademarks.

Had Brinkema sided with Geico, it could have crimped Google profits, which are generated almost entirely from the ads. The ads, which generate commissions whenever they are clicked on, powered Google to a $712 million profit on revenue of $2.6 billion during the first half of this year.

Google still faces "several" trademark infringement cases in the United States, France, Germany, Austria and Italy, according to the company's most recent quarterly report. French courts have ruled against Google in trademark actions, and the company is appealing those decisions.

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